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Owen Sound’s First Fire Engine Celebrates 100th Birthday


Grey County - June 9, 2023 will mark exactly 100 years, to the day, since Owen Sound Fire Department Engine No. 1 arrived in Owen Sound.

The brand new 1923 American LaFrance fire engine was manufactured in Toronto and shipped to Owen Sound via Canadian Pacific Railway car. The Owen Sound Sun Times headline for Saturday, June 9, 1923, read “New Fire Truck Here Saturday - Chief McArthur Received Message Friday, Stating that Truck was Shipped”.

O.S.F.D. Engine No. 1 went on to serve the Owen Sound community full-time from 1923 until 1954 and then was used as a reserve piece until 1967 when it was taken out of service. The engine was donated in 1972 to the County of Grey-Owen Sound Museum. In 2000, O.S.F.D. Engine No 1 made its way back to the Owen Sound Fire Department for the purpose of restoration. The truck was dismantled and stored until December 9, 2015, when it was loaded onto a KMC Towing flatbed and delivered to Grey Roots Museum & Archives.

Over the next several years, volunteers, staff and local businesses diligently restored the fire engine. Pete’s Auto Body of Owen Sound painted the body parts in-kind, while Grey Roots vehicle restoration volunteers and staff poured countless hours into restoration work.

All this careful work was building to the engine’s inclusion in an original exhibit by Grey Roots titled Facing the Flames: The History of Firefighting in Grey County. The exhibit and the engine were unveiled to the public on September 20, 2019, and both were a hit. Engine No. 1 made a beautiful anchor point to the exhibit, delighting visitors of every age. Facing the Flames went on to win an Ontario Museum Association Award of Excellence for Community Engagement, and can be toured in full, including an excellent view of the LaFrance, in a virtual tour at

Following the conclusion of Facing the Flames in January 2022, the engine was carefully returned to the Moore & Muir Engine Works on site for yet more restoration work. For all the care and attention it had received in recent years, the engine hadn’t run in more than 20 years. Grey Roots volunteers again threw themselves tirelessly into the project, logging many more hundreds of hours. Their efforts were rewarded later that year as the engine roared and noisily turned over for the first time in decades.

On June 7, 2023, O.S.F.D. Engine No. 1 drove out of the shop under its own power. On June 9, it will drive into its 100th year, and the Grey Roots community could not be prouder to celebrate this milestone.

Grey Roots thanks each of the individuals, businesses and institutions that helped make the 1923 American LaFrance what it is today.

Grey Roots Museum & Archives shares the unique stories of Grey County through programming, special events, and original and traveling exhibitions.


For further information contact:

Sim Salata, Curator: 519-376-3690 ext 6114, sim.salata [at] (sim[dot]salata[at]greyroots[dot]com)

Zak Erb, Public Relations Coordinator: 519-376-3690 ext. 1423, media [at] (media[at]greyroots[dot]com)

Grey County

Situated two hours north of Toronto, Grey County offers beauty you can’t get in the city.

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